The matter of homonymy and salience in terms of attention phenomenon in Turkish: a cognitive linguistic approach

Taylan Akal
2010 Hacettepe Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi Dergisi  
The cognitive linguistic study of the words classified as homonyms which have the same orthography and pronunciation has an important role in answering the questions of how language competence works and how this process categorizes the linguistic units. The study of how a language user will react to a homonymous word in both a context-free and contextadded environment is new for Turkish in terms of cognitive linguistic perspective. According to Talmy's (2007) "salience hierarchy" words are
more » ... divided into "open-class words" and closed-class words." In classical lexical-semantics approach the "content-words" constitute the "open-class" while "function-words" form the group of "closed-class" words (Fromkin, and Rodman, 2003) . In Talmy's hiererachy the "content-words" are at the highest level. In the class of content-words there is also another sub-classification. In this sub-classification "nouns" precede "verbs," thus, they are more salient. In this study, whether the randomly chosen 20 homonymous words each of which has both a "noun" and a "verb" meaning will come up with the results in harmony with Talmy's (2007) "salience hierarchy" classification or not was analyzed. Also, this would lead to speculate on the universality of this classification despite surface differences between different languages. Another variable in the study is the link between the pre-activation of the homonymous word with "salience." In order to accomplish this, an open-ended data collection tool was applied for 20 native Turkish speakers. Ten of the informants read a text in which the 20 homonymous words were used as verbs while the other ten informants were detained from any context in which they could see the homonymous words used in a context. All the informants were asked to use each of the homonymous words in a sentence with the first meaning popped up in their minds. At the end of the study it is observed that when homonymous words are not given in a determined context the informants used them as nouns in accordance with the salience hierarchy. On the contrary, when the words are given in a context, in which each of them were used as verbs, the informants used them as verbs in their own productions. The use of the words having both
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